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Mops, Makeup & Martinis: Holiday Party with Mommy Greenest

Mommy Greenest Party - ALTAR herbal martinis

I went to a lovely, swanky little holiday party recently hosted by Mommy Greenest at Give + Take in Santa Monica. The focus of all the vendors was green. And real green, as in healthy, safe for skin, kids and the environment products. Not just greenwashing.

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Bona handed me a free mop at the door, but didn’t expect me to get right to work. I know this company because I’ve used their products on my hardwood floors for years. Their stuff actually works and cleans up the pet hair that drives me crazy. I’m just wondering how they knew I needed a new mop…

I got my makeup done courtesy of DeVita, using their Absolute Minerals line. I loved how soft the colors were and the makeup felt light on my skin. The spritz of rosewater prior to application also made me happy. The DeVita products – which include skincare – were developed by Cherylanne DeVita. She struggled with acne and sun damage from living in Arizona and her products reflect the needs of real women searching for practical, natural beauty aids. There’s a personal touch that she brings to her line. More than just good products, you feel her story and dedication to organic, healthy skincare.

Ever had an herbal martini? I have and it was delicious. Mommy Greenest brought in ALTAR to serve up drinks – sans alcohol if you prefer. I tried ALTAR’s herbal concoctions both ways. What is an herbal martini? I’d love to have you join me for happy hour so we could down a couple, but since it’s 9am on a Monday, I’m going to sip slowly on my second cup of coffee and explain. Here’s how they describe the mix: Each ALTAR recipe is a collage of fruit, vegetables, spices, teas, herbs & botanicals. With gorgeous packaging and elixirs such as Aphrodisiac, Bliss and Restore, I could see these gracing the bar of my next party. You can combine them with gin or vodka or just ice. Impress your friends as a trendy mixologist and order some up today.

Thanks to Mommy Greenest for the invitation and it was lovely to throw on some lipstick, get out like a real grown up to meet some new people and get the holiday ideas flowing! If you’re looking to have a green holiday or discover new products, check out the Mommy Greenestsite.

A Whisper To A Roar: Democracy The World Over

This quote opens the press materials for the documentary film, A Whisper To A Roar.  I was hooked.  A Whisper To A Roar tells the story of five countries involved in varying stages of the struggle for democracy.  I hadn’t seen the Voltaire quote in a long time, but immediately thought of stories coming out of Syria, Iran, Russia and then leapt to our own upcoming elections.

I have to confess that my interest in global politics and news is still a fairly recent phenomenon.  Something changed for me, in a deep way, after interviewing Abby Disney, reading Leymah Gbowee’s book Mighty Be Our Powers  and meeting Leymah.  In the past, I’d read the news for a while, get disgusted by the corruption and hypocrisy and go back to a good novel.  So what changed?

In other posts, I’ve referenced something Abby Disney said when I interviewed her.  I was asking about the difficulty in watching, editing some of the footage from her film, Pray The Devil Back to Hell.  Hard, yes.  But also good.  I believe she mentioned watching the women in the struggle for peace in Liberia just shining as they moved forward.  Abby said that she’s one of the happier people you’ll meet because she’s not ducking and dodging the hard stuff.  This has stayed with me.  Conflict, pain, maybe even war are part of life.  People will come into government power, they will do good things, but they may do horrible things.  Power is a tricky beast.

I’m coming to a place where reading, thinking, writing about the struggle and the process of struggle are fascinating.  I know that I’m doing all of this from my cozy American home, not on the front lines, not in harm’s way or trying to protect my children, find food, etc.  But this is the first step.  I am paying attention.  This is exactly the kind of introspection that the film A Whisper To A Roar encourages.

Writer/Director/Producer Ben Moses (Good Morning Vietnam) worked with a highly collaborative team to make AWTAR.  The film was inspired by Stanford professor Larry Diamond’s book, The Spirit of Democracy.  Prince Moulay Hicham of Morocco was the film’s benefactor, conducted Head of State interviews and was part of the team as they formulated interviews, decided on the countries to be included in the film and traveled.  The countries featured in the film are Egypt, Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

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Each country has its own story, culture and history, but through AWTAR we see commonalities and universal values emerge.  Prince Moulay Hicham described the film as a lens through which to see these universal struggles.  Applying universal values to any set of countries can be tricky and make for a very complex story.  But Moses did an excellent job of bringing the stories to life and keeping everything clear.

Here’s one comment by Moses:

“What fills me with joy about watching the audiences with this film, is that both the hard-core right wing and the hard-core liberals love the film and believe it’s worth seeing and want to promote it.  At the screening, at the premiere in LA, I would say probably about 50% of the audience was Republican, conservatives and the other half was the other side.  And they all liked it.  That really gratifies me.  I didn’t want this to be a political piece.”

And Larry Diamond furthers that thought:

“…this is part of a global aspiration, a global desire, a global movement.  And that they should identify as global citizens of democracy.  Not just as citizens of one country, but we all have these desires, expectations and aspirations in common.  Hopefully people will be motivated to take a specific interest in these countries and in countries like them, where people are struggling for democracy under very, very difficult circumstances and trying to hold their leaders accountable under conditions where there’s not a level playing field and that that can be something very, very difficult to do.”

How is this accomplished?  How does the struggle play out in these various countries?  Protesting, organizing, voting.  The use of social media has proven an important tool recently.  Using cell phones, Facebook and twitter to get the word out, to organize and monitor voting.

Again, Larry Diamond:

” I think this is one of the most exciting elements of the kind of new era that we’re in– is how creatively and trans formatively democracy movements are using social media of all kinds, FB, twitter, mobile phones, texting—actually a wide variety of tools to mobilize their fellow citizens, to break the barrier of fear and to make people aware that their frustration is shared very widely.  Once you realize that you’re not going to be alone, you’re not going to be isolated, that when you come out to protest you’re going to have large numbers of your fellow citizens with you, the cost and risks of that acting are reduced.  These tools have also been technically extremely helpful in vote monitoring operations.  They are hugely valuable coordinating tools so they are game-changing. “

But Prince Moulay Hicham warns that social media is one tool in achieving freedom and democracy:

“But again, it’s [only] a tool.  Let’s be clear, it cannot substitute for organization.  And that’s very important.  It cannot substitute for long term, grassroots organization and the covering of the territory.  It’s only an auxiliary.  It’s not the principal thing.  In fact, you see it in Egypt.  These kids were very good about it.  They created the Flash Flood, but after the Flash Flood they couldn’t nourish it.  The Muslim Brotherhood came back because they had organization.It’s a tool that has to be at the service of a vision, of an organization, of a program and of a presence on the terrain.”

A Whisper To A Roar opens in Los Angeles on Friday, October 19th.  The film’s website has more information on screenings, updates on the countries and organizations discussed in the film and ways to get involved.

The conversation continues at The Huffington Post with Ben Moses, Prince Moulay Hicham and Larry Diamond.

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Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here

Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad has been described as the cultural and intellectual center of Iraq.  Bookstores, cafes and outdoor book stalls line the street.  On March 5th, 2007 a bomb exploded on Al-Mutanabbi Street killing 30 and wounding 100.  To mark the anniversary of the bombing and the essential role that art plays in our lives, poet Beau Beausoleil and others have organized readings in 10 cities.  These readings are part of a much larger project that Beausoleil and a dedicated group of artists and volunteers have worked on since 2007.  I interviewed Beausoleil recently to learn more about Al-Mutanabbi Street and his project.

“My wife and I would read the NY Times and we’d have this heated discussion in the morning and all these feelings.  And then the next day, the next NY Times would come with more carnage and blood.  We were always just turning the page.  I couldn’t find a place, a stillness in this.  Then when the attack on Al-Mutanabbi Street happened, I knew that as a poet and a bookseller, that’s where my bookstore would be.  I have a used bookstore in San Francisco.  As a poet, that would be my cultural community.  I felt it just on a very visceral level and I knew in my heart of hearts that somebody would organize something.  A reading, something here in SF.  And I waited.  I waited for about maybe a week and everyday I kept thinking that I’m going to hear that somebody’s putting something together.  I never did.  I could feel that we were already turning the page on more atrocities that were happening.  I decided to stop that page right on Al-Mutanabbi Street and focus on that one thing.

I talked to a lot of Iraqis [both in and out of the country] who had kind of numbed themselves to reading about and hearing about people being killed, including close friends and relatives.  In some strange sense you get used to it in a way.  But when the attack on Al-Mutanabbi Street happened, I’ve heard from more than one Iraqi writer, that they burst into tears right where they were.  The feeling at the time was–what else can you take away from me?

That’s really where the project started.  And you’re right, most people don’t know about Al-Mutanabbi Street or what it’s come to represent for this project which is more than that attack because my feeling is that wherever someone sits down to write towards the truth or someone sits down with a book, that that’s where Al-Mutanabbi Street starts.  My feeling is that now Al-Mutanabbi Street starts on a small street in Damascus somewhere.  Or a small street in Tehran or a small street in Bejing.  The seeds for that are just all over the globe and this project recognizes that, but most especially in Iraq.  Even today there is a writer’s union, whenever there’s any kind of demonstration of writers, it always starts on Al-Mutanabbi Street.  It just remains the heart of that cultural community.”

The project has evolved to include four parts: Beausoleil put out a call to book and letter press artists to create broadsides sharing their personal response to the bombing of this cultural center. Sara Bodman of the Centre for Fine Print Research in the UK has worked with Beausoleil, helping contact artists, organize exhibits and get the word out about the project. The collection of 133 broadsides by artists from around the world can be seen on the Florida Atlantic University website.  In Los Angeles, the broadsides will be on display at UCLA from March 5 through April 30th, with a reading on March 5th.

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Artist Book by Sarah Bodman

Along with the broadsides, Beausoleil also reached out to artists to create books that would hold both “memory and future” of the bombing.  There are 261 books that have been created as part of the project.  Plans include sending the books to Iraq to be housed at the National Library in Baghdad.  Beausoleil talked a little about how Anthony Shadid championed the project.  Beausoleil had experienced some difficulty in reaching the right people in Iraq.  He eventually reached out to Shadid, who wrote back expressing his support for the project and putting Beausoleil in touch with the Director of the Iraq National Library.

“I’ve exchanged emails with him over the years and he’s always been supportive to a fault of what we were trying to do.  This whole project was devastated when we heard of him passing away.  The Director of the National Library responded immediately to me saying how important he thought it was for, not just people in the West to see these projects, but for Iraqis to see them.  For them to know that they weren’t so alone in what they were suffering, that other people saw it and were responding.  One set of the broadsides are in Washington DC right now at the State Dept to get them crated up and sent onto Baghdad.  Anthony Shadid had said that when the broadsides came to Baghdad, he would go back there and sit with me by the Tigris and we would have a cup of coffee together.”

The third part of the project seeks to remind people and raise awareness to the crucial role cultural centers play in our lives through readings, exhibitions and panel discussions.  Finally, there is an anthology of essays due out in the summer of this year called, Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.

“One thing I’ve said to people who are organizing shows of this work is that the last thing I want is a passive art show.  At each of these shows we ask for a reading or a panel.  We ask the person who’s curating to reach out to the Arab-American community in terms of writers and artists, the North African community, where they live to try to bring people in, including student organizations.  As well as local writers who are not Arab-American.  I think that many institutions are uncomfortable with the kind of ideas that this project brings up, which have to do with truth and memory and personal responsibility–All the issues around Iraq and about our invasion of Iraq and our occupation of Iraq.  This project and the work that it has produced–my biggest hope is that it makes people feel uneasy in the best sense of the word.  That they begin to entertain other ideas.  Not just about Iraq and Al-Mutanabbi Street, but also where Al-Mutanabbi Street starts in their own lives as well.”

For more information on the readings, click here.  To see more of the artists’ books in detail, go to the Centre for Fine Print Research site. When you click Gallery1 on the upper right hand corner, you’ll have the chance to see each book and read a statement by the artist.

What Anxiety Means to Me

Can I confess to having a heaping share of anxiety lately? It comes and goes like LA traffic. Sometimes you’re cruising right along on the 405 and then suddenly, often for no fathomable reason, the cars all back up on each other and tension seems to rise palpably. Other times, you know traffic’s going to be a snarl and you just take a deep breath, grit your teeth and merge anyway. Seeing my credit card bills come due is like merging onto the 10 at rush hour. The anxiety hits, you know you can’t really avoid it and you just keep going.

So anxiety is both certain and unpredictable. I know it’s hanging around because of big life events going on. I’m not generally an anxious person. Worry, sure (I’m a mother). Obsessive, on occasion. And sometimes I can be a little perfectionistic. The anxiety is specific to this time and won’t last forever. In the meantime, I try to breathe, call girlfriends and my mom and listen to guided mindfulness meditations from an app called Headspace. The 10 minute bits on Headspace are led by Andy Puddicombe, one of the company’s founders. I feel a little bad for what I’m about to say since Andy is a fully ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk, but here goes.  Andy’s hot and he’s got a great voice.  Love the English accent. Let’s just say that I’m mindful of why I chose Headspace over other sites. But the meditations do help. I’m reminded of techniques I learned years ago that just sort of fell away.

I’m freelancing and it’s going pretty well.  New opportunities are turning up all the time, but this is still unfamiliar for me. Working full time, being single, co-parenting and having the financial responsibility in this way are all new to me. I get scared. I feel strong. I want to feel sorry for myself sometimes. I get angry, sad, hurt, happy. I feel terribly competent and then terribly anxious.

Anxiety = Fear. Fear is primal which means you can’t reason with it. You just have to recognize the bastard and keep going anyway. It also helps to listen to Patti Smith really loud in the car with the windows open when you’re on the freeway with traffic good or bad.  Singing helps because it forces you to breathe regularly. The right song will let you enter someone else’s heartache and leave yours behind for about three minutes. I like Patti Smith for these moments because she may have been afraid to get up and sing, but you’d never know by the raw growl and power of her voice. She’s bad ass. Since it’s looking like I won’t be a rock star, I’ll shoot for bad ass.

How do you handle anxiety? I’d love to hear your ideas, experiences and tips.  Please share!

RV camping

The way RV Camping Become A New Travel Trend In USA

If you are tired of your working, your family, your life or whatever, why do not you go somewhere to travel and explore, throw all of worries into the storage? But, travel is not a simple thing because you can not take along everything in your house. Moreover, tickets and accommodation are always two big issues. So why not try an all-in-one travel experience with an RV (Recreational Vehicle) that will save you money and bring a whole new experience to your travel needs?

Go RVing

Pros and Cons to RV ‘ing Across the Country For a Year

For a long time i do research in this vehicle, I found out advantages and disadvantages. Although it has some significant cons but in my own opinion, RV is probably the most do-able out of all our ideas, I have not found anything that kills this thing completely yet. Otherwise, RV lifestyle is becoming popular in the world.

Advantage of RVing

Living in an RV, you can travel and explore the country, you have total freedom and flexibility. Maybe i do not need to say more. There are few things in life as freeing as being able to take your home with you. With this lifestyle, you can choose a destination and then go to it,any where you want. Let’s enjoy the nature and scences.
The second reason is living in an RV enables you to move around the whole country but the budget is at a minimum. You do not need to care about tickets, hotels, food… It means you will save you hundreds of dollars in air tickets and hotel reservations. Moreover, you won’t have to worry about packing clothes and other essentials, as all your stuff would be in the RV.
Next, meeting new people is a big pros if you are in RV lifestyle, you have the travel bug, then heading out and seeing the world will open up a completely new way of living for you, i mean you’ll likely meet others who interested in RV like you, all of you can share about this hobby. At the same time, you have chances to meet new people along way too.
The last, you will have a lot of fun with RV. An RV’s freedom means you’ll constantly have access to whatever it is that you want to do—whether that means visiting beautiful places or seeking out top vacation spots for entertainment and adventure.

Difficulties you have to face as an RVer

Besides all the pros above, i give some cons you should keep in mind, such as: Although, comparatively it is cheaper living in an RV compared to a regular home, but the amount of gas you would be putting in your vehicle can disturb the budget. Gas is not cheap in America and if you are a travel lover, the fuel charges might ask you to give another thought. A mobile home means you can’t bring all the stuff you really want or need for everyday living. It is quiet small so that we do not have very much personal space for example when baby starts crawling.
About the money and renting, RVs aren’t cheap , it is usually at least 260.000$. Renting them isn’t cheap either. They cost thousands a month, which make it seem better to just buy an old used one and run it into the ground or sell it at the end of the adventure. Tou should consider if your budget is limited :).
Bathrooms and washroom inside an RV are usually very small due to limited space and are not very comfortable. Even if your RV does not have a bathroom, you have to regularly use public bathrooms and showers or somebody’s ones, which is definitely not convenient.
Another thing you have to think is Internet. You will not connect with internet 24/7, all the time you are in an RV. It means that you can not check your mail, you face to the problems of sending an receiving email, or even the daily news.
The last issue i think is the most important is criminal, will you be safe in an area outside and no connection.

>> Other story you may like: More than coffee spoon

Some useful tips

From the cons i show you above, i also give you some financial tips I found on MSN to keep in mind: First, be neat! Set everything with neat and tidy. Second thing is be clinking with plenty of money, then saving your rig and shopping for the loan, this means you should consider among the kinds of car. Another idea is reducing the tax, we do not own a home so that we do not need to pay the income tax. Besides, do it right now. Many people ask themselves why they did not have this RV sooner, if you like this lifestyle, do not wait and then regret. Lastly, you should spend a good care for your beloved vehicle. You should check it regularly to make sure no big issue happen to your RV during the long trip. Keep them in tip top condition by wax the RV with high-quality wax products. Your vehicle will always look shiny during the trip which can make you enjoy the trip somehow better.

If you want to make your full-time RV life easier, there are plenty of RV cleaning and maintenance products to along the way. Do not only concentrate on the cons, you see, this life style has a lot of pros you should experience. It is not easy to spread over the world in one year, but RV did.

Villa Metro: More Than A Street Fair

My kids and I have always been a little weird when it comes to looking at houses. We’d go for walks in the neighborhood and pop in on open houses whether we were looking for a house or not. We started doing this when the girls were little more than toddlers.  They learned to see past a bad paint job and look at the bones of a house.

Not all kids find this fun which is why Villa Metro’s Street Fair in Valencia is kind of brilliant. This Saturday, August 17th from 10 – 4, parents can tour brand new Mediterranean-style homes and kids can eat, make crafts and enter contests to win prizes. It’s like a block party before anyone’s moved in.

Valencia has grown tremendously over the past decade. Villa Metro is part of a well-thought out community connected by bike paths, rec areas, pools, gyms and trails. The homes have been developed with the Southern California landscape and lifestyle in mind. Along with an emphasis on family and community, these homes boast sustainable building practices and a small-town feel.  As another bonus, Valencia is connected to LA via Metrolink.

Come out to Villa Metro this weekend to learn more about the design and scope of this community and talk with representatives from The New Home Company while the kids run around and listen to music. Valencia has two farmer’s markets and a growing list of restaurants and shops. There’s also an emphasis on outdoor activity and Valencia is known for its good schools.  So make the trip up this weekend to the Villa Metro Street Fair!

Villa Metro in Valencia, CA

More Than Coffee Spoons

A friend asked me a tricky question today. She asked how I’m doing. The answer to that feels long form and unformed. “I need to read Joan Didion” isn’t really an answer that sheds any light. But I need to read her to remember the kind of writer I want to be. Kind of antsy and a little flat is a more accurate answer, but still not anything anyone wants to hear. It’s nothing I want to look at.

I’ve missed writing here. Haven’t made the time or there just isn’t time. I’m trying to get used to a schedule that includes lots of work and little by way of regularity. I worry far too much. Edward G. Robinson’s character in Double Indemnity talked about the little man in his gut. Mine’s on fire most mornings even before I open my eyes to ponder finances and work and the To Do list.

I’m at a point in my separation where we’ll be filing for divorce soon. It’s been 15 months since my ex and I called it quits. As civil as our separation has been, there’s a taking stock that I feel forced into lately. I’ll just say it outright–After being a stay at home mother, working part time for years, it’s scary to be on my own. I didn’t walk back into a career. I’m patching one together and don’t really know what the hell I’m doing.

When I list what’s going on in my life, it all sounds good. I got a raise this week. I filed a piece with a new outlet. I’m working on a longer piece that I think really has potential. My kids are having a good summer. I’m going back East to see family soon. Lots of good stuff. But I don’t really feel any of it. I’m slogging through, starting the day with coffee and ending with a glass of wine. Marking my days. Like PrufrockI have measured out my life with coffee spoons.

Maybe Prufrock is something else to read right now. The line, Do I dare eat a peach?, jumped out at me in high school when I first read Eliot. I got it. Even the mundane tasks of simple sustenance can be tricky, fear-laden. And there’s J. Alfred laying it all out for me and anyone who cares to read. Fear isn’t confined to jumping off a cliff.  Ordinary life inspires this too.

But Didion writes and Patti Smith sings. Maybe I should make a collage of all the touchstone artists in my life and call it More Than Coffee Spoons. I’ll hang it on the ceiling in my bedroom right over the bed so I see it every morning.

photo credit: Jon McGovern via photopin cc

Whole Inspiration

For the past 18 months I’ve worked part time for Whole Child Foundation as Program Director. Whole Child is a non-profit started by Dr. Lonnie Zeltzer with a beautiful, truly worthy mission and no money (like most non-profits). At Whole Child, through the clinic and foundation, we work with kids and teens with chronic pain. The kids deal with a variety of diagnoses such as migraines, IBS, arthritis, brain cancer and Sickle Cell Anemia. People often say, “Oh wow. That must be so hard. So sad.” It’s not.

At Whole Child, we help kids. We give them hope and techniques for managing or conquering pain. We get them back with their friends, back in school and back to a quality of life that seems almost unimaginable for most of these kids. We’ve witnessed kids go from wheelchair to PhD. We have artists, writers, scholars and athletes come to us. Most of these kids have seen upward of 14 doctors before finding Dr. Zeltzer.

Right now I’m running a filmmaking workshop for Whole Child with a grant from Women Helping Youth. We have 8 kids telling their stories and filming them. I need help editing the footage. I need food to feed everyone on our last session, July 20th. The kids need each other even if they didn’t realize it. I’d love it if the kids produced some great short films during this workshop, but even more, they’ve had the chance to connect with each other and themselves.

It seems paradoxical, but connecting with others suffering from chronic pain frees the kids up to remember themselves without pain.  I’m pretty sure it gives them hope. In taking stock, this is the most gratifying work I do. I get to watch kids who feel lonely, misunderstood and isolated, connect in a deep and meaningful way. And with the workshop, they bring all the force of their creative selves to the forefront.  They are amazing. They are passionate. They are so very real.

As soon as our new site goes live, I’ll share it here so you can meet these kids. In the meantime, if you can help with editing or donate lunch for our last session (July 20th), it would be great. You’ll enjoy it, I promise!  We’re planning to replicate this program soon.

I’m not writing this to get funding.  I just really want to share some of what I’ve been doing that sustains me and gives life a whole lot of meaning.

photo credit: Khánh Hmoong via photopin cc

July, July

I remember last July as a time when my girls were away visiting family.  I’d just moved into my apartment and Scott had moved into his place down the street. I ate chocolate chip cookies for breakfast and baguette with chevre and figs for almost every other meal.  I read excerpts of The Hunger Diaries by Mavis Gallant and wrote about it here on my blog.

This July is different. I’m reading Junot Diaz. There haven’t been enough figs or solitude in this month. Alice Munro announced that she’s written her last book and to be honest, I can’t even process that bit of news.  Gallant’s diaries don’t get published until September. My blog languishes. It’s almost as long a time between posts as it is between me dropping off and picking up my dry cleaning. My cats have both taken off. Black Cat lives with another family who’s nicer and buys him toys. Speed has just disappeared. I think he was lonely without Black Cat (BC is a selfish cat and has definitely moved on from us and poor Speed).  Their water and food dishes sit here just the way they left them.  I started getting teary over the little bastards last night.  I even bought them a tub of catnip.

Izzy is up north visiting family and Amalia went to rhythmic gymnastics camp this past week.  Summer of their independence in a few different ways.  But Amalia has traveled a lot and it’s been really good for her.  Izzy always has a great time on her visits up north. Next week, we leave for NY, family and the beach.  Can’t wait.  But that’s August and a completely different beast.

I didn’t expect this July to be quite so heavy. But I have almost fully decided to let my hair grow again. I cut it last year with the separation. If only it would grow out as quickly as a decision gets made. Making gains in the freelance world has happened a little faster than hair growing and that’s a good thing. I’ve added new outlets and have even done some successful networking.

This is a ramble of a post. Time to get to work.  Have a great day everyone.  How’s your summer been?

photo credit: Muy Yum via photopin cc